Billy Bessinger is probably more educated than you. An Arizona State graduate, he has a bachelor's in real estate as well as an M.B.A. -- but after trying his hand at the corporate world, he realized bartending was still the best gig in town -- luckily for us. Now a seven-year veteran of the industry, Bessinger did time at Nick's at Pinnacle Peak as well as a few other locations in Scottsdale before landing at RnR (3737 N. Scottsdale Rd., 480-945-3353), where he now tends and manages the bar.
What's kept you in bartending for so long?
You know, I continued my education after I graduated -- I ended up getting my M.B.A. -- and I tried to start doing the nine to five, but I realized a career in bartending is just a lot more fun. I really like the social interaction, just talking to people and talking about drinks. Even if I'm just talking to them about their day, it's a lot more fun than sitting at a computer. I tried doing the real estate thing, but all I could do was count down the hours until I could get to the bar. This is where I need to be.
When most people are out having fun and drinking, you're here working. Is it hard to give up your nights?
I've gotten so use to working nights, the lifestyle has grown on me. I would assume it's kind of the same thing that happens when chefs get passionate about food. For me, when I go out, I go out to happy hours. I don't go out late at night, because that's what I do all day. It would be like asking somebody to spend their days off in an office. I spend my days working; my office is a bar. I get that social interaction; I meet girls; I listen to music. That's all kind of part of the job, so when I'm not here, I'm actually rather boring. I like to go for a jog, sit at home, be quiet, cook dinner. As far as going out and getting crazy, that's kind of what I do here already.
When you do go out, what do you like to drink? Are you picky?
I'm actually very picky about margaritas. I'm also a stickler on martinis. I like gin martinis, and anytime I order a nice gin martini and I see the bartender shake it up, it makes me mad. A lot of people don't understand that gin and tequila are aromatic liquors and when you shake them up, you bruise the liquor. That's why they get that cloudy color. You're ruining the flavor and the aromatics of it.
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SHOW ME HOW
What do you hate about bartending?
Guest who have been over-served. Especially lately, with spring training, people will go to the game and have a good time, then come here after and stay until midnight. They ask for a drink and you just hand them water, and most of the time they don't even tell the difference.
What's the wildest night you've experienced as a bartender?
We actually had a crazy night here when the college football national championship game was in town. I realized it would be good money, so I decided to make myself work a double the day of the game. I think we did something like $40,000 in sales over the course of a day, but it also happened to be a day when we did happy hour and reverse happy hour. So for 8 of the 20 hours we were open, all drinks were have price. We had the most sales we've ever had and I was basically making double the drinks. We started the day with like 30 kegs and by the end of the day I think we had one left. So many people.
If you could have a drink with any person, who would it be?
I think I'd like to drink with Anthony Bourdain. I think that would be a good time. I did a No Reservations marathon the other day on the Tivo. He looks like he likes to party. He's not pretentious and he's kind of been everywhere. I think I'd get along with him.
What's one thing people on the other side of the bar would be surprised to know about you?
I take it personally when someone sends a drink back, so I'm constantly trying to create this efficiency where everything comes out exactly the same. I want it to be perfect. I get concentrated on work and people will ask why I'm not smiling and not having a good time. I don't realize I'm doing it -- I just get in the zone.